Final vote tally gives Likud 32nd seat, one behind Blue and White

The adjustment does not change the balance of power as a haredi party in the right-wing bloc absorbs the loss.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

The Likud grabbed another seat in the Knesset, the official vote count showed on Tuesday, leaving it one short of tying Blue and White for biggest faction in the legislature.

The Central Elections Committee (CEC) announced that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s party will now hold 32 seats, compared to its rival’s 33. The gain will not change the balance of power between the right and left-wing blocs, however, as it comes at the expense of an ally, the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism faction, which fell from eight to seven seats.

The change came about after CEC ran several tests on the tallies to ensure the accuracy of the count. It used a system for identifying anomalies in, and reasonableness of, the results.

It says that it ran a comparative test that inspected the precision of the typing up of the vote counts. And it investigated the ballots more deeply in both random polling stations and others in which various parties challenged the results or where suspicious incidents took place on Election Day.

As a result, CEC head Judge Hanan Melcer disqualified all the ballots in six Arab and Druze voting stations due to election fraud – three in Yarka, and one each in Sakhnin, Shfaram, and Arraba. The Druze village of Yarka was especially problematic, with Melcer noting that another three polling stations’ results were partially invalidated there, and specific ballots were disqualified in several others.

The CEC has handed over its evidence of false ballots, ballot stuffing and “serious irregularities among polling station officials” to the police for investigation, Melcer said.

There were other factors that helped lead to the Likud gain, including the final, comprehensive count of six last batches of “double envelope” votes belonging to soldiers who voted on military bases instead of at home, prisoners in jail, and diplomats abroad. But the fact that a few thousand ballots being thrown out also changed the final make-up of the 22nd Knesset will probably resonate the most with the public, as it seems to bear out Netanyahu’s pre-election warning that the Arabs would try to “steal” the vote.

His admonition had come in an attempt to get his supporters to the polls after the revelation just before Election Day that hundreds of complaints had been made to the CEC of voting fraud in the Arab sector in the April elections, but that the committee had insisted that no widespread fraud had occurred and the police had only opened investigations in two cases.